GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – Ringing in the new year with the sounds of loud bangs from fireworks is a yearly tradition.
But to Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary in Green Cove Springs, continuous hours of loud fireworks could, once again, endanger the lives of the animals.
“When you have a sound that’s loud and continuous and also shakes the ground, they think the world is coming to an end,” said John Knight, owner of the sanctuary.
During the last two New Year’s Eves, wolves at the sanctuary have died after going into shock-induced strokes that the sanctuary believes were caused by loud fireworks that frightened the animals.
The owners of the wolf sanctuary said that when wolves are exposed to continuous hours of exploding fireworks, they get nervous and their blood pressure goes up. The rise in blood pressure in older wolves can sometimes lead to a deadly stroke.
On Wednesday, the owners of the sanctuary were preparing all 46 of their rescued wolves and wolf-hybrids for the holiday.
“We’re probably going to mildly sedate them,” Knight said.
But even that can be dangerous.
“If it doesn’t completely dissolve their fears, they’re going to be running around half-drunk and jump off the platform or run into trees,” Knight said.
On Jan. 1 of this year, Solomon, a wolf at the sanctuary, died of a stroke after the owners said he endured six continuous hours of fireworks. The same thing happened to Bariah, a wolf-dog hybrid, a year prior.
“It’s gut-wrenching because it could have been prevented,” said Debra Knight, co-owner of the sanctuary.
The Knights say they are not against people celebrating the holiday with fireworks. They just ask that people be more considerate of neighbors who have animals. A suggestion they have is to limit firework use to one hour instead of all day.
Another thing to take into account on New Year’s Eve -- the wellbeing of your pets.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pet owners can protect their pets during fireworks demonstrations by:
- Turning on soft music and moving the pet to an interior space or room in the house with no windows
- Purchasing the pet an anxiety vest that fits snug on the animal
- Asking your pet’s veterinarian to prescribe your animal an anti-anxiety medication
John Knight wrote a 576-page book called “The Sanctuary.” In the book, he talked about how the wolves he’s rescued have appeared to transition from wildlife to domestic animals by the way they respond and interact with people who take care of them. It’s unclear if being traumatized has caused them to revert back.